Former players reminisce about playing days at Alumni Day in Tampa

Nearly three dozen ex-Major Leaguers assemble at Tropicana Field to connect, swap stories

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mark Whiten still enjoys his slice of baseball immortality.

Nearly 17 years since he last stepped into the batter's box, Mark Whiten's name is still synonymous for having a career day at the plate. On Sept. 7, 1993, Whiten tied the single-game records for home runs (four) and RBI (12) while playing for St. Louis.

"That's baseball," Whiten said of his night that included a grand slam and a ninth inning blast off Reds closer Rob Dibble. "It's crazy because I don't think I had hit a home run for a month before that."
Earlier this season, Reds third baseman Scooter Gennett became just the 17th player in Major League history to hit four homers in one game while driving in 10 runs. Baseball fans across the nation were reminded of the exploits of Hard Hitting' Whiten, whose 11-year career spanned eight different teams.

"Mine stands out. I had 12 RBI," Whiten said of the record he co-owns with fellow Cardinals slugger Jim Bottomley. "It's nice to hear your name come up when another player ties the feat and does something special because you know how hard it is to achieve something like that."

Whiten was able to reminisce about those exploits with fellow members of the MLB Players Alumni Association that gathered at Tropicana Field before Friday's game between Tampa Bay and Baltimore for Alumni Day. Among the nearly three dozen attendees, whose big league careers spanned anywhere from 20 years to 20 days, in attendance on Friday were Ray Burris, Anthony Telford, Mike Heath, Lyle Mouton, Jason Michaels, Jim Archer and Marc Sullivan.

"It's a chance for us to get information out to these guys about charities, events or benefits while giving them a chance to meet, shake hands and form a fellowship," MLBPAA chief executive Dan Foster said. "This gives them a chance to go have a beer and watch a game."

Founded in 1982, the MLBPAA, which currently has over 8,200 members, helps players transition to life after baseball while continuing to promote the game. The organization is responsible for a youth player and coaches clinic series that will help put together 150 different events in 10 different countries in 2017.

The biggest benefit for the former players, however, is the chance to network with their former peers, many of who have moved on to post-baseball careers.

"It's nice to be able to kick back with guys that understand the game, communicate about the game," said Whiten, who now runs a landscaping company in Tampa and is a volunteer coach with the RBI Baseball program. "When you retire, you miss the camaraderie of your teammates more then you miss the game. I had no problem letting someone else go up there and try and hit those curveballs or those 95 mph fastballs because I couldn't do it anymore."

One of the youngest players and the only former Rays player who attended was former right-handed pitcher Seth McClung.
McClung, 36, retired in 2014 to spend more time with his two daughters after six seasons spent with the Rays and Brewers.

"Once you leave the game, it keeps going. It doesn't stop for you," said McClung, who now lives in the Tampa area where he runs a youth academy, Big Red Baseball. "Through the Alumni Association you can connect across generations of players who understand what it's like, and they've been great helping to adjust to life post-baseball."